September 11, 2019
MEMPHIS, Tennessee – On Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, former National President J. Patricia “Pat” KoKen Merrill, a 1945 initiate of Sigma Kappa Chapter at Ohio State University, passed away peacefully at the age of 93. She was elected to the sorority’s highest office in 1967 and served in the role four years.
With determination and charisma, Pat was instrumental in preserving Kappa Delta’s future during the late 1960s when many Greek-letter organizations were no longer welcome on campuses. Her legacy is captured in Ordinary Miracles: 100 Years of Kappa Delta, by Cynthia Allen Weston: “Balancing idealism and pragmatism, she listened fastidiously to all sides of a question and worked to find common ground in situations of conflict.” Pat is credited with winning back university recognition for a number of chapters that had lost status as a campus organization during that time.
In recognition of Pat’s transformational leadership during unprecedented years of strife, she was inducted into the sorority’s Hall of Honor in 1997.
“Pat left a tremendous legacy as national president,” says National President Tricia Ruma Spence. “Her impact on Kappa Delta can still be felt today.”
As an undergraduate journalism major at Ohio State, she was on the editorial staff of both the university magazine and the campus humor magazine and served her Kappa Delta chapter as secretary and membership chairman. As a young alumna, Pat served on the alumnae advisory boards (now called chapter advisory boards) for Sigma Kappa Chapter at Ohio State and Beta Nu Chapter at Toledo. She was membership chairman and vice president of the Cleveland West Alumnae Chapter and an active member of the Rochester, New York, and Richmond, Virginia, alumnae chapters. Before assuming the position of national president, Pat served as national vice president, Kappa province president and national press director.
Upon her retirement from Kappa Delta’s national presidency in 1971, Pat was appointed an alternate delegate to the National Panhellenic Conference, serving on behalf of Kappa Delta until 1975. In keeping with her love of writing, she returned to national service in 1991 as national historian.
“Pat handled everything with such grace and calm,” wrote former National President Patricia Beecham Nieman. “She was definitely a ‘healing’ national president at a time when KD needed her more than ever. We are better because of Pat.”
Pat’s legacy continues through an annual scholarship she endowed on behalf of her parents, Frank and Violet KoKen. Since the scholarship was first awarded in 2008, a dozen Kappa Delta collegians have benefited from her generosity.
Pat’s family will receive friends for a celebration of her life on Sept. 14, 2019, from 4-5:30 p.m. at Bliley’s, Chippenham, 6900 Hull Street Rd., Richmond, Virginia. She will be laid to rest at a later date in Rose Hill Cemetery, Akron, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association. To make a donation to the Kappa Delta Foundation in Pat’s memory, contact Lucy Dang, foundation operations coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org new email, or give online.
Kappa Delta Sorority is a national organization for women with more than 271,000 members, 168 active collegiate chapters and 224 active alumnae chapters nationwide. Kappa Delta is active in a number of philanthropic endeavors, including the prevention of child abuse and confidence-building programming with Girl Scouts of the USA. In 2009, the sorority created the Confidence Coalition, an international movement to promote confidence in women and girls. In 2010, Kappa Delta established International Girls Day to empower girls to reach their potential. It also created International Women’s Friendship Month for women everywhere. Kappa Delta’s national headquarters is in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information, visit www.kappadelta.org.
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